Bill Ferris AC, a pioneer of the Australian venture capital sector and an architect of the federal government’s $500 million Biomedical Translation Fund (BTF), has been appointed Chair of the Medical Research Commercialisation Fund (MRCF).
Mr Ferris was former Chair of the Garvan Medical Research Institute and inaugural Chair of the Innovation and Science Australia Board. He will succeed former Queensland premier Peter Beattie as Chair of the MRCF. Mr Beattie will remain on the MRCF Board.
Former Victorian health minister Rob Knowles will also join the Board. He will replace the MRCF’s inaugural Chair, Alan Stockdale.
“At a time when a biotech company, CSL, has become more valuable than one of our largest banks or BHP, we see a glimpse of what Australia’s future can be,” said Mr Ferris. “In order to create more CSLs, we need to foster innovation and not squander the health and medical infrastructure that has been built up.”
“The MRCF is a nationally important entity which exists to commercialise our most promising biotech innovations, contributing to the country’s economy and improving our national health system. I’m really delighted to give my support to this mission.”
Venture Capital firm, Brandon Capital, established the first MRCF fund 13 years ago with $30 million. It currently has over $700 million under management, making it the largest life science investment fund across Australia and New Zealand.
Dr Chris Nave, CEO and co-founder of the MRCF, said the current COVID-19 pandemic highlights the vital importance of Australia’s medical research capabilities and infrastructure.
“Medical science and research will ultimately provide a solution to COVID-19. We are so fortunate that we have the research capability in Australia to be a leading part of the global response. It is only because of years of forward thinking and investment by successive Australian governments that we are in this position," said Dr Nave.
"Not only does our medical research capability equip our nation to tackle challenges like COVID-19, it also offers a future industry that will provide sustainable jobs and income for the country. Bill’s expertise, as one of Australia’s most accomplished and visionary venture capitalists will help shape and drive the MRCF into this future.
“The MRCF was established to make capital available to commercialise world-class research. Through the MRCF, we now hold enough capital to put $20 - $30m into companies carrying out phase one and two trials. This was simply not possible five years ago.
"The next stepping stone for the industry is to access sufficient capital to support phase three trials, which need upward of $100m per investment. By doing this, we will create the CSL’s of the future.
“While we aren’t there yet, we do have the pools of capital available through our superannuation funds, provided we continue to demonstrate returns and build confidence," added Dr Nave.
“The MRCF has undergone a dramatic expansion in scope and purpose over the last 13 years,” said Mr Beattie. “Bill joins us at a critical and exciting time as we continue to build the country’s biotech capabilities.”